Friday, July 24

BoA-Merrill Lynch announces there's a global water crisis! Thanks for letting us know.

I'm really glad such a large American institution has arrived in the 21st Century:

California's drought is "a harbinger of the coming global water crisis"
Corey SternJuly 23, 2015Business Insider[their emphasis, not mine]
The four-year California drought is causing unparalleled devastation to the regionAnalysts at Bank of America Merrill Lynch think it’s going to get a lot worse.
"We view the unprecedented drought in California as a harbinger of the coming global water crisis," BAML strategists wrote in a note to clients on Tuesday.
"By 2050E, 45% of projected GDP is at risk, with as many as 50 countries at risk of conflict over water."
The numbers are scary. Groundwater levels have dropped as much as 100 feet, while the Sierra Nevada snowpack is at only 5% of historical levels.

When considering the economic impact of the drought, it gets even more frightening.
"The drought is expected to cost California agriculture alone US $2.7 billion in economic costs in 2015, with disruption extending to mandatory water restrictions, wildlife, land subsidence, seawater intrusion, wildfires, and human health," the note said.
BAML went on to estimate that California’s water supply would be more than 13 trillion gallons short of demand by 2060, "with an 80% chance of multi-decade 'mega-drought' this century."
Just look at this chart to see how serious the situation is already becoming:
[go to the website to view the scary chart]
And water shortage is not an issue exclusive to the US.
In fact, BAML reiterates from a report they put out in April that water scarcity is considered "the #1 global risk for 2015 in terms of impacts to economies, environments and people."
"Globally, 750 million people lack access to safe drinking water source and 2.4 billion have no access to proper sanitation facilities," the analysts wrote. "Close to 50 countries are officially classified as being water stressed, and up to 70% of the world’s underground aquifers have reached peak water. 
Global water demand is set to overshoot supply by 40% by 2030E, and by 2050E, 3.9 billion people will be living under "severe" water stress."

Wall Street can relax. Many fortunes will be made battling the water crisis, at least 80 percent of which up to this point is due to long mismanagement of water resources and ignorance that is fast getting cured.     

Now every time one turns around there's a new company selling ingenious ways to conserve water.  On July 1 (July 20 print issue) Forbes published an inspiring article by Aaron Tilley, a Forbes staffer who specializes in reporting on computer hardware and chip makers, The Internet Versus The Great California Drought.  He profiles four companies -- HORTAU, WATERSMART, WELLNTEL, HYDROPOINT DATA SYSTEM -- that are writing the book on intelligent water management in the era of big data and the internet. 
“Water so far has pretty primitive technology being applied to it,” says David Sedlak, co-director of the Berkeley Water Center at the University of California, Berkeley and author of the book Water 4.0: The Past, Present, and Future of the World’s Most Vital Resource . While tech is no cure for the West’s extensive water crisis, it’s one of the more powerful tools we have.
That it is.  However, Wall Street will probably go in a big way for companies that sell big-ticket solutions:  yet more dams, and desalination plants.  On July 22 The New Yorker published Amanda Little's overview of the major pros and cons associated with desal, Can Desalination Counter the Drought? 

Her report would hold no surprises for Pundita readers but she does a good job of pulling together all the issues.  And I like that she emphasizes a point that tends to get lost in the shuffle: desal is siren. It can make it unnecessary to conserve water and manage it intelligently.  Because there is no such thing as cheap desal despite innovations that have made it less expensive, this will be a big consideration if and when the other part of the global water crisis starts to kick in. That's the part that has nothing to do with bad water management practices or even ignorance about groundwater levels.  

It's the part that has to do with the Biotic Pump Hypothesis -- although there are actually two biotic pump hypotheses -- the relatively simple one put forward decades ago by Eneas Salati, which I've discussed before on this blog. 

The other one is very complex because it has to do with a controversial new 'theory' about how winds are created; it was put forward in 2007 by Russian biophysicists Anastassia Makarieva and Victor Gorshkov ("MG"). 

I haven't discussed their theory before on this blog but if Makarieva's math is right -- and there's been a lot of argument about whether it is -- the human race is screwed, unless there's a halt to decimating coastal forests and an all-out effort to replant ones that have already been destroyed. 

But even that might not avert the worst. It might be too late because mature forests can't be grown quickly. Long before the postulated effects of greenhouse gases roast the planet, lack of rainfall due to malfunctioning of the biotic pumps associated with coastal forests could do us in -- if MG are right.

I'll return to the theory, eventually; for readers who'd like to stick a toe in the discussion right now, I'll recommend Clearing Forests May Transform Local -- and Global -- Climate by Judith D. Schwartz for Scientific American, (March 2013) as an introduction. 

However, I warn that Schwartz only sketches the MG biotic pump hypothesis and in doing so cuts out all its complexity -- and controversy, noting only that "the biotic pump needs to be confirmed by further research." 

Don't quote me on this but I think it was confirmed a long time ago; it's just that MG argue the phenomenon has much greater impact than accepted up this point by science. 

In essence MG are saying that the forests don't simply attract and disperse rainfall -- the "simple" biotic pump hypothesis -- they actually make weather.  

God help us all if they're right.  And a Pundita Prize to the first person who can clearly explain MG's hypothesis for the layperson. Many have tried and failed. Don't look at me; my math and physics aren't up to it and this really is a story about math.  

There's an aeronautical engineer who goes by the name of Jeff Id and blogs at the Air Vent. He tried his darnedest in 2010 to talk Makarieva into creating an experiment to illustrate the hypothesis given that meteorologists didn't have the math to understand it.  (Start around #18 in the comment section to follow their discussion.)  She refused.  They had to come up to her level; she wasn't going to stoop to theirs.

She's stubborn as all get-out.  

But in the final wash she's right because in this era science is all about modeling in this era and if you don't express it in math you don't have the models, then nobody who is anybody in science is going to listen to you.  And that's about where things stand right now with MG's biotic pump hypothesis even though a few scientists have come into their camp. 

As to my view of MG's hypothesis at this point: after I watched the BBC's documentary on the monsoon, I don't think weather is any one thing.   
Even shown on the small screen at YouTube, the way the monsoon is created is frightening to watch, the forces are that powerful. (The photography of the creation process starts around the 8 minute mark and runs about five minutes in Part 1 of the documentary, featured above.) And from the documentary it seems very intense heat rising off the anvil of the desert in Australia and one other desert (in the Tibetan plateau, if I recall) is what creates winds that become the monsoon.  

But maybe Anastassia Makarieva has an explanation for that too.

For now, we are facing the very prosaic issues of learning to better manage what water is available to us.  


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